Fantastic Fest Review: A Wounded Fawn
Greek tragedy and gore combine in this wild serial killer romp
By Richard Whittaker,
12:30PM, Fri. Sep. 23, 2022
In his feature directorial debut, The Girl on the Third Floor, Travis Stevens depicted a man who's not as decent as he thinks he is. In his second, Jakob's Wife, men think they can simply dominate inner urges. In his third, A Wounded Fawn, Stevens finds a villain who embraces his monstrous aspects - to strangely slapstick effect.
Not that there's no menace, and there are plenty of reasons to worry for Meredith (Sarah Lind) because there are red flags aplenty about Bruce (Josh Ruben). Like the way he doesn't pull over for enough bathroom breaks on the way to his cabin for a romantic giveaway, or his serial killing. Yeah, that's probably it. However, the first big clue that she gets is a sculpture in his secluded home of Tisiphone, Alecto and Megaera - the Erinyes, the three Furies, born of blood and dedicated to vengeance as justice. It's not the subject of the sculpture but that it disappeared, as did the woman who placed the successful bid at auction, that worries her. Even then, it's a pale warning of exactly how unhinged Bruce will get, or of what's rippling at the corners of reality.
The pieces are set in place for a Greco-pagan revenge drama, with Bruce falling deeper into conceptual art brain damage as visions of the Furies begin to rip his reality apart. The second half of A Wounded Fawn thrashes around inside his perception, and may be the most warped trip inside a serial killer's mind since The House That Jack Built - but with that film's pompous provocation replaced with an almost Loony Tunes vivacity.
Grisly and grotesque, silly and incisive, it's interesting to see Stevens take the same proto-horror influences of Greek theatre that Wes Craven wove into Scream 2, and indulge in some truly grisly and over-the-top horror antics. The copious blood that is spilled isn't modern dark crimson, but has more of a Hammer Horror bright pink-tinged hue, a decision that consistently raises the question of what level of sanity Bruce is stuck in.
Art, impulse control, obsession, supernatural forces: it's quite the strange brew, and it's given form mostly by Stevens' signature unconventionality. He's disinterested in straight-forward villains and heroes (much of what makes Jakob's Wife so interesting is that, for all its vampirism-as-liberation text, it never lets the audience forget its supposed heroine is a murderer). So while Bruce is undoubtedly a scarcely-suppressed bundle of malice and misogyny, he's also a clown, pinballed around by the Erinyes. Or maybe by his unhinged visions. Or maybe by his visions being manipulated by the Erinyes. It's a question both answered and deflected by one of the most awkwardly hilarious endings of a recent horror film.
And that unconventionality may be A Wounded Fawn's most delicious twist. It feels like cinematographer Ksusha Genenfeld, and editor Zach Clark (with whom the director shared cutting duties) have brought our a new wild side Stevens, a - pardon the pun - furious energy and visual adventurous streak implied in the designs of his earlier work but never quite unleashed in the form of those films. In A Wounded Fawn Stevens' whole storytelling technique is as manic and wild as the warring forces on-screen, but with a deliciously wicked sense of impulse control - something that Bruce, luckily for the story, so clearly lacks.
A Wounded Fawn
Tue., Sept. 27, 2:15pm
A version of this review ran as part of our Tribeca 2022 coverage.